Did you know?
That 92% of teens report going online daily- including 24% who say they go online “almost constantly”. More than half (56%) of teens defined in this report as those ages 13-17 go online several times a day, and 12% report once-a-day use. Just 6% report going online weekly and 2% go online less often. www.pewinternet.org 2015
Tweens (pre-teens) and teens of today are being born into the technological age where the computer coupled with the Internet and mobile phones have become super information highways that are fast becoming substitutes for parenting, personal interaction, socializing and learning. My daily encounters always incorporate seeing teens on the train or bus perusing their phones constantly either alone or in groups. Most of the time these teens are on social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter or Instagram where one can write headlines and post statuses with pictures. Obviously this happens at home as well, and most parents have come to accept this as the norm. But how normal is this norm? How normal is technology addiction? Technology is not overall bad; it is the overuse of technology that makes it bad for not only our tweens and teens but also everyone.
According to Larry Diamond, “Digital ICT has some exciting advantages over earlier technologies. The Internets’ decentralized character and ability (along with mobile-phone networks) to reach large numbers of people very quickly..” (Liberation Technology).
Based on the statement above, technology has evolved immeasurably since the 2000s. Earlier technology gains included computer labs, phone booths and landline telephones amongst others. In the earlier days one would visit the library or schools to use the computer lab, but today, this is now an option. Likewise, phone booths and landlines have been phased out with the invention of mobile phones, which have become easily accessible. As a result, many children (tweens/teens) seldom ask for permission to go play outside or to a friend’s house. Instead they are given smart phones with a wide variety of Apps, games and social media and they ask for permission to have a Facebook or Instagram account.
Consequences of Technology Abuse by Tweens and Teens
- Technology Abuse disrupts teenage learning
Technology has impeded our tweens and teens ability to think critically and be original in their ideas. For example, when faced with homework and assignments teens immediately go to the Internet to look for ready-made answers instead of researching information to stimulate their thoughts. This dependency on readily available information has created a new breed of what appears to be “lazy-thinking individuals” who tend to be intelligent outwardly but lack depth inwardly. There seems to be no attempt to think creatively, thus stimulating their cognition levels. Therefore it is not surprising that this teenage generation rely solely on “Google” to look up answers to simple questions such as “who is the 30th President of the United States?” We really should be looking among the tween/teens for future leaders who are strong-minded individuals capable of making wise decisions.
- Technology Abuse is characterized as addiction
Jennifer Soong in her WebMD feature on “the Paradox of Modern Life” cites Healey (2009) who states that Internet Addiction can be explained as a psychological dependency that results from habitual or compulsive Internet use. Soong points out that even though Internet addiction is not yet recognized as a formal diagnosis, reports suggest that it is responsible, among other things for rearing a generation of impulsive individuals who are unable to concentrate – that is, it is negatively impacting their education, work and personal relationships. Meanwhile, it is Healey (2009)’s article in the Los Angeles Times entitled “Internet Addiction: a 21st century epidemic with some more at risk than others” that highlights the essential use of technology which is nearly escapable. Therefore Healey suggests protecting insatiably curious and eager to experiment learners since this addiction is a serious concern in this age of information.
- Technology Abuse fosters poor social skills
In the teen link, kburt24 of Houston, Texas in writing about the question of whether technology is hurting or helping social skills states that some technology can be useful for some interactions. It is stated that some kids allow the Internet to take control of their social lives and slowly, their willingness and ability to socialize face-to-face is decreasing. It is further stated that there is now a debate on this topic and researchers are worried that kids might be missing the importance of social cues and the ability to socialize without coming off as being considered socially awkward. This notion of being socially awkward is supported by Brown (2013) whose analysis shows that in the revised version of the DSM a new category of psychiatric disorder called “internet addiction disorder” has been proposed, thus highlighting the negative use of internet use. Brown (2013) cites a Professor of Communications at Alma College who reports that in the last five years there has been “erosion in students’ ability to focus and even their ability to engage in face-to-face interaction” (pp., 2-3). It is Wiesen (2014) in her Science learning article who states that some child development experts report that children who spend excessive time in front of screens are not developing the social skills they need to effectively handle interpersonal relationships.
In order to prevent technology abuse, I believe that everyone should be involved in this new developing phenomenon i.e. parents, teachers, children and schools. Parents need to become more tech-savvy and stop making excuses for their lack of computer skills; this will enable them to be more vigilant in their children’s technology use/overuse. Whether they are single parents or not this issue must be taken seriously and common goals should be expressed and implemented. Parents, set limits and boundaries on cell phone usage, set age limits for when your children can get cellphones, utilize time limits and even suggest getting a part-time job for of age children. In addition, schools and teachers can work hand-in-hand; stricter cellphone usage guidelines in schools should be monitored and there should be guidance in the use of “when” and “how” cellphones are used during school hours. Allocation of time should be organized that students are given ample opportunity for social interaction and discussions. This would aid in fostering the enriching learning environment needed by our tween and teens.
Brown, C. (2013). Digital Commons. Retrieved December 7th, 2015, from www.digitalcommons.com: http://digitalcommons.conncoll.edu/psychhp/40
kburt94. (n.d.). teenink. Retrieved December 7th, 2015, from www.teenink.com: http://www.teenink.com/opinion/current_events_politics/article/162125
Lenhart, A. (2015, april 9th). www.pewinternet.org. Retrieved December 7th, 2015, from www.pewinternet.org: http://www.pewinternet.org
M, H. (2009, October 5). LA Times. Retrieved December 7th, 2015, from www.latimes.com: http://latimesblog.latimes.com/booster_shots/2009/10/internet-addiction-a-21st-century-epidemic.html
Soong, J. (2005). WebMD LLC. Retrieved December 7th, 2015, from www.webmd.com: http://www.webmd.com
Wiesen, N. (2014, April 15). Science Learning. Retrieved December 7th, 2015, from www.scilearn.com: http://blog/social-skills-digital-age-screen-time